Wading into the Sci-Fi genre pool is usually a dodgy prospect for the indie filmmaker. After all, you're facing special effects (which always take WAY longer than filmmakers realize) and you have to come up with an unusual production design. In essence, you have to create a new world from scratch and somehow do it all using thrift stores. This almost always has the filmmakers leading us down one of two roads: look past our incompetent execution and appreciate our "high concept" or nudge-nudge, wink-wink, we know we just made a piece of crapola so laugh with us.
However, once in a blue screen we get a filmmaker like Mikel J. Wisler who manages to avoid the cinematic sci-fi land mines with his nifty short film submission EMPATHY O.D.
From the official synopsis: Set in New York City in the near future, an NYPD officer arrives at an apartment where a woman has suddenly dropped off the health grid network. What she soon discovers forms a familiar picture of prescription drug abuse in a world where many people must take powerful drugs known as "empathics" in order to experience basic human empathy.
Cool. Attention grabbed. And there is more neat stuff going on in the film than what is said above.
Writer/director Wisler made some very wise choices when putting this clever movie together. First of all, he set his story in the near future. Not Dune-level future (A.G. 10,191 - whenever the heck that is). This allows for smaller effects that can still add some pop. The "small effects" in EMPATHY O.D. are very well done and add just enough visually to make it stand out and yet still stay critical to his story. No effect has been rendered just to "look cool" - they all matter in the final piece.
By using the near-future, everything feels a little more immediate by allowing us to relate to it. It's why a show like Black Mirror (which this film could fit beautifully within) can get under our skin by making us think their dystopian nightmare stories could happen to us as a society if we aren't careful.
Mikel J. Wisler lets his effects elevate his solid screenplay instead of distracting us from it. This movie could have probably worked fine even without effects, but because they are used for much more than just screen dressing, EMPATHY O.D. got ahold of our attention.